Steelers' Defense Owns Goal Line

Steelers defense (Pugliese/USA TODAY Sports)

LATROBE – As Mike Tomlin likes to say, "Iron sharpens iron," and that appears to be his intent this training camp with all of the live tackling ...

... being done by the Steelers during scrimmage periods.

But if the large number of players out with various injuries is any indication, the tactic is taking a physical toll.

Joining the three previously injured cornerbacks – Cortez Allen, Terry Hawthorne, DeMarcus Van Dyke – and linebacker Jason Worilds and defensive end Nick Williams on the sideline Saturday were defensive linemen Brett Keisel and Steve McLendon, linebackers Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Jones and Adrian Robinson, running back Le'Veon Bell, and tight end Matt Spaeth.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left practice early to have ice applied to his right knee, which has caused him to limp noticeably around campus the last couple of days, but has had no apparent affect on his mobility during practice.

None of the new injuries are believed to be serious. Tomlin described them as "a myriad of minor training-camp nicks," and said, "I'm not going to get into the details of that. Many of these guys will be working their way back here in the next 24-48 hours."

Tomlin said he's ratcheted up the physical intensity because, "We are young in a lot of areas, particularly on the lines. We have young, talented defensive lineman and young, talented offensive lineman. The only way to improve is to play football."

With the starting offensive line intact, the Steelers could only punch in one running play for a touchdown, out of four rushing attempts from the one-yard line, during the goal-line drill to end Saturday's practice.

And that one touchdown was disputed by linebacker Larry Foote, who argued with the paid game officials that Jonathan Dwyer only crossed the plane with his rear end and not the ball.

Dwyer did enter the end zone butt-first, because he was hit at the line and turned while going through left guard for the score.

Dwyer was the second back used. Baron Batch was stopped on the first attempt, and a play-action pass by Bruce Gradkowski missed both tight ends on second down.

On third down, Dwyer was stopped for a loss by rookie linebacker Vince Williams before Dwyer scored on the fourth snap against the second-team defensive line.

On the fifth snap, Gradkowski completed a play-action pass to tight end David Paulson in the back of the end zone, and on the sixth snap nose tackle Loni Fangupo led a wave of defenders to LaRod Stephens-Howling, who lost yardage attempting to run outside.

"Offense won the short yardage," Tomlin said of an earlier period, "and the defense came back and won the goal line. Such is life this time of year. If you're growing, and growing in the right ways, we will continue to create an environment that is competitive."

VET OL SIGNED

To replace the waived/injured rookie Nik Embernate, the Steelers signed 31-year-old D'Anthony Batiste, who started 10 games for the Arizona Cardinals last season and has 14 starts and 37 games-played for Dallas, Atlanta, Washington, Denver and the Cardinals since coming out of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2004.

Batiste is wearing No. 64, and on his first day did not take reps with either the first or second-team lines.

SPEAKING OF THE OL …

* Mike Adams remained at left tackle and Marcus Gilbert remained at right tackle Saturday in what appears to be a move that will stick. Some team sources even believe Kelvin Beachum has a good chance to win the right tackle spot from Gilbert.

* Sunday's second line, from left to right, was Beachum, undrafted rookie Chris Hubbard, center-right guard John Malecki, right guard-center Justin Cheadle, and Guy Whimper.

* During one-on-one drills, Cheadle drew praise from Tomlin for driving the massive Fangupo several yards off the ball.

* According to former guard Craig Wolfley, who's now working for the Steelers as a sideline reporter, only Malecki and starting left guard Ramon Foster are undefeated in one-on-one drills.

* Fangupo and starting center Maurkice Pouncey became involved in a pair of post-whistle scuffles during team scrimmages, while nice-guy tackle Joe Long and defensive end Brian Arnfelt nearly came to blows during the one-on-one drills. It's been that kind of a week.

RED ZONE

Early in practice, Plaxico Burress pulled down a fade pass in the corner of the end zone during a 3 (DB) on 2 (WR) drill. It's the exact kind of play the coaching staff is looking for out of Burress this camp if he's to make the team.

But Burress didn't get a chance during the live red-zone drill, in which Gradkowski hit a wide-open Paulson for a score on the first snap from the 20-yard line.

On the remainder of the first-group snaps, Ike Taylor broke up a potential TD pass to Antonio Brown, and Isaiah Green broke up another potential scoring strike to Jerricho Cotchery. Also, Batch ran a draw for a 9-yard touchdown.

Rookie Landry Jones quarterbacked the second group and his first pass was intercepted by a diving Damon Cromartie-Smith.

Jones, the fourth-round pick, is being outplayed by fourth-year free agent John Parker Wilson, who's generally considered the fourth-team QB.

WOUNDED WARRIORS

As reported in Saturday's Morning After, Troy Polamalu has avoided interviews this training camp, but after Sunday's practice he walked past the media without being asked for an interview. And there were a couple of good reasons.

First of all, with a thunderstorm rolling into campus and the sky turning black, the group of reporters waiting for Tomlin only wanted a quick update in order to leave the field.

Also, Polamalu was on his way to join Brett Keisel to greet a couple of war veterans who were in attendance. One even spoke to the players at a team meeting.

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